Herring outlines priorities in Virginia’s opioid epidemic

WAVY-TV 10 Photo

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring on Monday outlined priorities for Virginia’s continuing battle against the opioid epidemic.

Herring outlined the priorities — or next steps for the Commonwealth — Monday in Virginia Beach. The priorities Herring discussed fall into three categories — Law enforcement initiatives, support from the medical community and recovery.

Herring stated Monday, “This epidemic doesn’t discriminate and it doesn’t lend itself to simple solutions like more arrests, or simple messages like ‘just stop using.’ We have to recognize that this is a complex problem that calls for a multifaceted solution. My team and I have been working on this problem every day for nearly four years, and we’re not going to stop because we are still losing too many treasured friends, spouses, siblings, children, and parents to this epidemic.”

Herring spoke before a crowd of chiefs of police – promising he’d work to keep them safe from the deadly drug epidemic.

“They’ve really done an outstanding job in responding to this crisis.  Herring says that’s why he hopes the general assembly will tweak fenantyl laws – so that dealers whose product hurts an officer – can be charged with assault.

“We’re hearing of instances where law enforcement comes on the scene where dealers or traffickers have been putting these drugs together and its in the air or in materials and it gets on their clothes or skin,” Herring said.

Herring also wants lawmakers to give officers the power to charge a person with no more than one gram of fentanyl with intent to distribute. Saying even the smallest amount of the drug has proven to be fatal.

Numbers released last month by the Virginia Department of Health showed 377 people died of drug overdose in Virginia during the first three months of this year.

That number was up 15 percent from the same period in 2016. Opioid addiction was declared a public health emergency in the Commonwealth nearly a year ago.